Wellness at Work
HVO Search brought together:
Elizabeth Cowper (Founder, The Ludo Partnership and Ex Global Head of Wellbeing, Tapestry)
Laura Moore (Founder & CEO, Nell Health)
David Plans (Head of Research, Huma and former CEO, BioBeats)
for a candid conversation about wellness plans and priorities - ones that resonate with employees. And how to create a culture that encourages workers to be their authentic selves.
Wellness programs in the workplace need to go beyond themed conference rooms, free trail mix snacks and discounted gym membership.
They need to make people feel healthy, supported and engaged at work.
We need to make the workplace full of compassion and acceptance, where people feel comfortable opening up about their health and personal challenges.
The impact of Covid-19 has been quite dramatic - our physical health has been affected as well as our mental health as a result of stress, loneliness and isolation.
Here are our key takeaways on improving wellness strategies at work in the short-term and the long-term.
What is the difference between wellness and wellbeing?
They're interchangeable. People tend to talk about wellbeing in themselves more often and wellness as a term that encompasses a larger group of people.
Having a good sense of wellbeing make us feel more contented. The knock on benefit to employers when people feel happy and can be their authentic self is that they work better collaboratively, they feel less stress and they will be more productive which then drives a sense of success. It's a great cycle to achieve.
How did you do that at Tapestry as Global Head of Wellbeing? What were the key initiatives? What was the most successful?
We started on a shoestring budget but I think things are changing and more money is being invested into wellness programs as research shows how important and necessary they are.
We started out doing sessions in the office e.g. guided mindful consultation or a skincare routine consultation.
What's really important is conducting a needs analysis for your employees before you start anything. Every company is different and your employee's wants and needs will be different.
Art workshops were asked for - it takes people away from their desk, it encourages connections and it promotes creativity. There can be a cross-collaboration between teams and they're using a different creative part of their brain.
We ran a wellbeing week once a year, where the entire week was dedicated to wellbeing and we encourage leaders to take part so others joined in with the event.
Wellness week was a really great chance for us to bring together people who didn't work in the office (82%) to bring wellness to them.
Measuring how successful wellbeing is is difficult, but when you are convincing the business how important it is you can find that sales were higher in stores where staff participated in wellbeing events.
Maria: When you're focused on one thing too much, you need to take a break from it in order to come back and think clearly. I love the idea of art sessions and promoting creativity.
What is the impact of flexible working on employee wellness?
It's been a real mix. I think it's too soon for us to tell the long-term impacts.
I feel like we are evolving into a completely new way of working and I cannot see us going back to five days of working in the office.
Employers have to think differently about how they look after their employees. Having no commute time is great because many people have more time to spend on themselves, their families etc. But research suggests that a third of people are spending this extra time working.
Seeing what you’re seeing now - what should companies be doing to prepare?
Is wellness our employers responsibility? Should it be?
Having line managers move to a place of understanding is so important. It is more important than ever that leaders are authentic.
You’ve recently opened your product up directly to customers and it has been in high demand. To me this shows that individuals see the massive value in looking after their health. Are you seeing the same trend in companies offering this to their employees? What trends are you seeing?
One of the biggest trends that has come out of Covid is that individuals and companies has realised the importance of prioritising health and to really enjoy work and the life around you. Health has much broader benefits.
People no longer take health for granted, they are investing time into their health and understanding reasons as to why they should.
Companies have seen their employee's struggle with issues that were not visible prior to Covid so they are more willing to invest in wellness.
The sectors that have been hit very hard by Covid are finding this difficult, understandably. But other companies are definitely realising that wellness should be at the top of budgets.
What results are you seeing when companies prioritise their employees' physical health?
Individuals have seen a bigger purpose and their community not just something you take for granted but something you should invest in. This has a knock-on effect with how they see their teams and companies. When you start prioritising health you see a more clearly defined purpose, more engagement, more openness and more productivity.
How do you measure how your product helps wellness?
Engagement is a big one. Engaging your employees before you measure the effect of the wellness program is important.
We're doing this in area of preventative health so we could even say we reduce the risk of employees getting type 2 diabetes etc.
General health, retention of staff, sick days etc where you can see an ROI - there will be a triple investment back if you invest in wellness.
Measuring what solutions and tools would benefit your employees should be a focus.
How do you adjust your strategies around wellness when people are not together / working remotely?
We've always been remote and we offer tools to individuals who do the test themselves and see the results themselves.
We've made sure to invest with consultation technology so it's a nice process for people to go through.
What is happening to our workforce during Covid? Are we ‘ok’?
The short answer is no. One thing that is really important to realise is that we weren't ok before. People are amazingly resilient, we can cope with so much and we grow to face challenges. But even prior to this, there was never enough support for mental health. The changes we are seeing now are improvements to this.
However, some of what I see is workforces that are incredibly strained and managers doing tick box exercises.
How are companies dealing with the mental health pandemic? Do they know it exists?
Companies are facing overwhelming challenges but an "all hands on deck" and "war" spirit is the wrong attitude. Right now isn't about working harder, it's about working smarter.
I see companies investing less in long-term mental health as they see it as a one-ff time.
There is reticence that has never gone away.
Managers and employees have different experiences of the pandemic. Men and women have had different experiences of the pandemic but this isn't being reflected or spoken about often enough.
E.g. Some differences between men and woman are 60% of male managers feel comfortable asking for time off whereas only 25% of women feel the same. This says a lot about the pressure women feel in high positions.
If we go back 4 years when we started doing real time statistics about mental health - we measured stress at a french bank in London during Brexit. We put live stress monitors on them and they were more stressed at home than when they were at work. We started looking deep into the data and it was because most of them have families and data in the female cohort were more stressed at home (well over 60% than their male counterpoints). Inequalities about responsibilities are becoming clearer.
It was already difficult to admit difficulties s to managers before this, (burnout, stress etc) the financial difficulties that are looming make it an impossible time to bring up stress.
Research shows that when leaders encourage vulnerability and cultivate compassion at work, they can enhance positive feelings and trust among workers. This may be a different way of working for many people and is certainly different to how employers have worked in the past. How can leaders and HR teams help encourage vulnerability and compassion at work to create more openness? What are the best ways to create a culture that encourages workers to speak about their personal challenges?
Systemic approaches like Nell Health and The Ludo Partnership that understand needs are exactly what is needed. We need to bring data to the experiences to show that stigma won't go away easily.
More than 70% of managers felt they had a strong focus on wellbeing in the same organisation as only 30% of employees felt the same. This huge discrepancy in leadership needs to be acknowledged. At a leadership level, this is't just eradicating stigma but changing core beliefs about what burnout is.
There's a philosophical human problem that won't get better with data. There is a fundamental belief that people should be available 24/7 - especially economic models in workplaces. This is a hard challenge.
Elizabeth: For line managers to move to a different place of understanding, companies need to work on their culture.
There is active work for culture shift to take place and it won't just happen overnight.
One of the key ways to evolve into a culture of understanding where health is put first, is for everyone to feel comfortable being their authentic selves.
And this pandemic has forced leaders to be more authentic as we are seeing leaders in their homes, being interrupted by children etc.
Having conversations about working long days should be heard, be listened to and then be recognised by leaders that this isn't good for business.
When people feel comfortable being authentic, the more likely they are to speak up and speak openly. Then issues can be resolved.
The Ludo Partnership
The Ludo Partnership is a Consultancy providing coaching, HR support and wellbeing guidance.
Elizabeth is also Founder of WoMo Network. WoMo supports working mothers and will shortly launch a tech platform to transform the world of the working mother for the company and the employee.
Prior to this, Elizabeth spent her HR career working for brands such as Planet Organic, LVMH and most recently Tapestry.
Tapestry own Coach, kate spade and Stuart Wietzman where Elizabeth was VP HR Europe and Global Head of Wellbeing.
Elizabeth has been described as the ‘culture adjuster’ and has been listed in the HR Most Influential Awards for the last 5 years.
Laura is the Founder & CEO of Nell Health. Nell Health provides actionable, personalised food & exercise insights based on your DNA.
Nell is on a mission to give every individual body intelligence, the deep understanding of which foods and exercise that suit their body. The platform offers genetic testing, video consultations and food recommendations as a corporate benefit or through professional partners.
Laura has extensive consumer brand experience including Unilever and L'Oreal and was involved with her first startup at 19 years old. She is passionate about inspiring the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
Head of Research,
David was the CEO at BioBeats, an AI startup dedicated to improving mental health through technology.
BioBeats won funding from UK Government and various venture capital funds, until its acquisition by Huma Life Sciences, where he is now the Head of Research and Scientific Dissemination.
He is also a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Neuroscience at University of Exeter, a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, and a member of the Social Cognition Lab at University of Oxford, where he focuses on next-generation mental health digital therapeutics.